So I was making a hat for my husband for Christmas. While I was making it, all I kept thinking about was how the last time made a blanket, he kept complaining about the holes in it. I crochet. So here I am making a hat. It's too big. It's got "holes" in it. I want my husband to actually wear this, so I sat there thinking for a minute.
I had a lightbulb moment! Somewhere, I can't remember where, I had heard about felting. I wondered if I could felt the hat!
So I jumped down the rabbit hole and this is what I uncovered.
The tutorial that I found said to make it 2-3 times larger because it will shrink. It also said that not all yarn felts or shrinks the same. I only paid attention to the "make it bigger" statement.
So I made a hat far too large for anyone to wear. It was huge.
I then proceeded to hand felt the hat according to a tutorial that I found online.
Step 1: Make a Swatch to test felt your items (Somehow I kept missing this step, or maybe I felt like it was unimportant... DO NOT SKIP IT!)
Step 2: Swish and Swash your items in hot water with a little bit of dish soap. The dish soap helps to open up the fibers so they can felt together better. Rub the items between your hands to help the felting process go a little faster.
Step 3: If your items aren't felting or shrinking the way you want, dunk it in a cold water bath to shock them.
Step 4: Block and Dry. Shape your items using pins, newspaper (to stuff) or some other form in order to get your items to dry in the proper shape. I didn't get this far.
I realized about an hour into swishing and swashing that my yarns weren't felting the same way and they weren't shrinking very much. This is what my hat ended up looking like.
I learned that all yarns felt differently (even the ones that are labled 100% pure virgin wool...) and that you should always make a test swatch. Make your hat or other items bigger according to how your swatch felts!
For some reason I felt that this was necessary to learn the hard way. So my hat is ruined, but not useless. It will now be a dress up hat or some other such thing.
And I will definitely be trying again!
When I went to do laundry yesterday, I decided to see if washing and drying the hat would help it shrink more, and it did! Using the washer and dryer felted the hat further and shrunk it better than hand felting it. It still isn't a good hat for my husband, but it's not quite so ginormous;-)
In conclusion, always make a test swatch when working with new materials; hand felting is possible, and fun; if you have a washer and dryer, use them!